Eastern Christians have started Grand Lent this Monday, February 15th. But as of last night, the Christians of Iraq who did not give up hope, waiting for the Pope Francis' visit, had to face violent blind strikes again.
Indeed, rockets have fallen on Erbil. Coalition military installations, particularly American, were targeted at the area of Erbil International Airport.
Our contacts told us, from the first minutes of this attack, of the ′′accidental′′ rocket that has fallen on civilian's pavilonary areas. My fellow companion I was imprisoned with, with whom we went through so many trials together, wrote to me this morning: ′′It didn't fall far from my house. We will pray with the Pope".
Once again it is Iraqi civilians, Christians, Arabs and Kurds, Muslims, Shia and Sunni, Yezidis who are hitwithout distinction, caught in this noose of violence that is just getting tightened.
For months, via the reactivation of its many dormant cells, Daesh remains a threat in this country, as in Syria. In addition, missile and rocket strikes against US installations or convoys. If they are almost daily in Iraq, they were until recently, still isolated acts in Kurdistan.
Unfortunately, these actions have been intensified in recent months. Shia militias are pushing coalition forces, engaged in Operation Inherent Resolve against Daesh, to leave Iraqi soil. They pursue this objective, including in the Kurdistan Governorate. Beyond action, in the disputed areas of the Plain of Nineveh, Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region, is now a priority target.
In addition, since February 14, Turkey has launched ′′Claw Eagle 2′′, a umpteenth phase of its operations against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) that fighters find refuge in their mountain sanctuary on the border between Iraq and Turkey.
These operations, aiming at depriving the PKK guerrilla of its back bases, have actually been striking villages, pasture areas and cultivation areas from the Syrian border to the Iranian border for years. Most of the strikes focus on an area stretching from Sinjar to Mount Qandil.
The Sapna and Nahla valleys, Matina and Gara chains, where many Christian villages are nestled, are targeted by Turkish air strikes. Peasants, breeders, producers are the collateral victims of these strikes. The PKK guerrilla strategy is to find refuge near the villages, to demand their inhabitants to provide food, cottages, shelters. When Turkish intelligence services (MIT) know the positions, strikes come with a heavy reactivity.
Bombs strikes indiscriminately vehicles, roads, churches, houses, fields, orchards, flocks,... Many agricultural, irrigation, training, restoration of public and religious buildings that SOS Chrétiens d'Orient supports are thus threatened .. Christians in Iraq are less than 200.000, they were 1.200.000 in 1987.
Interference helps to threaten the survival of this fragile community. This morning, a faithful friend of the association was writing to us, as I asked him about his family, who lives in one of the seven Assyrian villages in the Nahla Valley:
′′We learned to live with the falling bombs".
Antoine Brochon, Security Manager.